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(Yesterday, the stars foiled any chance for a picture by staying in and partying on the hotel’s private balcony.) For a regular guy from Cambridge who became an international movie star and now works hard to maintain the image of a regular guy from Cambridge, the attention must be nerve-racking.Damon takes advantage of every minute away from the media hordes in an attempt to hang on to what passes for regular: Just before our interview, he sits in the Hotel de Russie’s courtyard, relaxing around an umbrella-shaded table with a dozen or so very American-looking pals and the very exotic-looking Luciana Barroso, a 28-year-old former bartender Damon met in Miami last year, who has been seen by his side ever since.This morning in Rome, behind the sunglasses (which he wears because it’s sunny, not because he’s a star hiding behind shades and a pulled-down-way-too-low hat), there is the first, slightest hint of laugh lines around his blue eyes. “My high school acting teacher put in me and Ben and Casey a really great gift, which was this way to approach work and a type of discipline to have when we approached it.
“Normally, I don’t get that much attention,” Damon says of the paparazzi when we finally meet.He’s done this before, many times, and he knows how to protect himself. Damon is the kind of guy you might see sipping a beer on his front porch. But I expected to see the funny side of Matt Damon. The boyish Matt who giggled with real amazement through an Oscar acceptance speech.The mischievous Matt who torments Harvard Square smart-asses in Good Will Hunting.It was 1996’s Courage Under Fire that changed everything.Damon was determined to get Hollywood’s attention, and his turn as Army Specialist Ilario, a tormented, heroin-addicted soldier (Damon shed a scary 40 pounds for the role) did the trick: Within the year, he was tabbed for the lead in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rainmaker and the title role in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan.